“The green tax committee suggests a carbon tax, which is to be implemented on the consumption of red meat,” Norwegian Farmers’ Union (Norges Bondelag) communication advisor Elisabeth Sæther told GlobalMeatNews. “The revenue of the carbon tax on red meat is estimated at Norwegian Krone NOK420 [US$48] per tonne of CO2,” she said.
The committee also suggested that the government should decrease subsidies on red meat production.
Sæther argued that such a reduction would equal “a tax on production of red meat at NOK840 [US$96.12] per tonne of CO2”. She noted that the government currently helped farmers with other welfare schemes, such as finance for vacations and for maintaining high production standards. However, with the Paris climate change agreement underlining the role of the agriculture sector in promoting global warming, political pressure to review such subsidies and introduce a carbon tax is growing: “Emissions from agriculture represents 8.5% of Norway’s total greenhouse gas emissions [which comes] primarily from livestock and meat production,” said a committee report submitted to Norway’s finance minister Siv Jensen on 9 December, three days before a climate change deal was struck in Paris.
However, farmers called the proposals counter-productive, saying they would result in “increased meat prices and more imports of red meat”, said Sæther. “In 2014, 43% of the beef imported to Norway came from Namibia, Botswana, Uruguay, Swaziland and Brazil and the carbon footprint from their beef production was four times higher than for Norwegian beef,” she said, quoting UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data.
However, the rest of the imported beef came from Western Europe, where the carbon footprint in beef production was the same as in Norway. Based on this analysis, she added: “The Norwegian University of Life Sciences has stated that the Norwegian beef production was twice as climate-friendly compared to the imported beef in 2014.” Of Norway’s total beef consumption, 20% is currently imported.
Svein-Erik Eide, communications chief for Kjøtt- og fjørfebransjens Landsforbund (KLF), Norway’s meat and poultry association, agreed, saying: “Norway has very climate-friendly beef production compared to other countries we import meat from. We believe it is important to stimulate increased Norwegian production, which ensures added value for the chain from farmer to consumer.”
Furthermore, even the committee accepted that tying the tax to actual methane emissions was impossible: “It is not possible to measure actual methane emissions from individual animals... and an alternative is to add a fee on harvested red meat like cattle, sheep, lamb and goat – for example, domestic production of red meat,” the report said, stressing that the “biggest methane emissions originate from the production of red meat”.
The committee also admitted that its proposals would lead to an “estimated 10% to 12% job losses in the Norwegian agriculture sector”. Sæther said this was an “understatement”, while Eide added: “This is an issue concerning jobs and resources.”
To counteract the negative effects of a tax, the committee suggested increasing financing for what it regarded as climate-friendly farming. “Existing businesses will have to adapt to the new regulatory framework, innovate and create more climate- and environmentally-friendly production processes and products,” the committee report said. Indeed, it suggested the agriculture sector should regard higher environmental taxes as a means of creating “new opportunities for businesses”.